Physician Spotlight: Dr. Carolyn Nelson

Carolyn-NelsonCarolyn D. Nelson, M.D., Family Medicine

Why did you decide to become a physician?

I will start with saying I cannot imagine any other career that would have been as fulfilling for me. I have never had a second thought about being a doctor.

As long as I can remember, I wanted to take care of animals. I actually wanted to be a large animal veterinarian. It was pretty much near the end of my junior year in college that I started thinking about taking care of people. One of my best friends’ father who also was a D.O., Dr. McKinney, convinced me that my talents were better suited to care for people. He was right.

Was there a singular moment you knew you wanted to become a physician?

[It was] when I received my acceptance letter to medical school and told Michigan State University’s veterinary school I was no longer interested.

Why did you choose your specialty?

Family medicine is perfect for me. I love taking care of all ages. It has been spectacular growing up with my patients’ entire families. I laugh with them and cry, and they also care about me.

If you weren’t a physician, what career might you have pursued instead?

My undergraduate major was food science and human nutrition. I really loved that major. I am not sure if I would have chosen that or veterinary medicine had I not gotten into medical school.

What would you say has been your most noteworthy contribution thus far in your career?

I am very proud to have been program director of the Botsford Family Medicine Residency program for over 30 years. I have trained and mentored many spectacular residents over the years, and like our children, they will be our and my legacy.


What medical experience impacted or influenced you the most? Did this change how you practiced?

There were several that I can think of having to do with life altering tragedies in my family. My “Botsford family” took such wonderful care of my family in every instance. A special thanks to Dr. Rebock, who desperately tried to save my sister and brother-in-law. Having physicians who care for you and knowing they will do their best for you is important. I try to remember that with every patient encounter I have.


What could other physicians, including those just starting out, learn from your experience?

  1. Besides being “smart enough” they must listen and be empathetic.
  2. You need to know your patient first and then disease process.

Describe your philosophy in practicing medicine.

I try to make sure to build my relationship with patients on trust and honesty. I also let them know my job is to “nag” them and “pester” them to take care of themselves. I give them homework to work on. I can help them best when we both agree on a plan, and when we can’t, my job is to keep pushing them.


What is the biggest or most surprising change you noticed about this field?

Electronic Health Records. Documentation may be better, but it has depersonalized medicine and “PJ” time just burns you out.


By the time you retire, what is one thing you hope you will be able to say about your experience?

I hope I had a positive effect upon my patients lives and the residents lives whom I’ve trained.

What hobbies do you enjoy?

Hobbies and exercise are what revitalize and rejuvenate me! I love to horseback ride, downhill and cross-country ski, bike ride, run, walk, swim, kayak, etc. I love the outdoors. 

Favorite places you’ve lived or traveled to in the world?

When I grow up, I want to be a millennial! They have all travelled so much more than  have. I've traveled several times to Europe and ski yearly out west. All great experiences. I do love Michigan and everything about it (except maybe the month of March). I am happiest here in Milford and up north!

Do you have family members you would like to mention?

Four of them:

  1. My husband for caring for me so much and putting up with me.
  2. My dad for being such a great role model and making sure I grew up with honesty and optimism and knowing you can make your way equally in the world no matter what your gender.
  3. My mom, who thought women should be at home but supported me anyway and helped watch my children when they were very young.
  4. Evie, my trusted babysitter for over 18 years. She is part of our family. She allowed me to get to work every day nearly worry-free when my kids were growing up.

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